You have a brilliant idea for a digital product or service that will revolutionise the world. How do you go about getting this idea into reality? You need to define your plan of action and create a Product Roadmap. This blog post is designed to teach people how to build their own roadmap, which they can then use as their blueprint for success. We’ll discuss what goes into building a Product Roadmap, why it’s necessary, and we’ll give you some tips on how to make it work!
So you’ve set your product vision and now it comes down to taking action. How do you actually execute on your pYou’ve set your product vision and now it comes down to taking action. How do you actually execute on your plan? How can you keep track of all the moving parts and know what comes next? How does one get started within a team environment without stepping on toes or creating more work for others? What is Product Roadmapping anyway, and how can it help me build better products faster while continuously delivering value to my customers?
Set Your Mission, Strategy & Goals
The first step is to define your mission, followed by your strategy and goals to get there. If you’re not sure what these are for your product or service then the best thing to do is simply ask questions like:
- How does this digital product fit into my business’ overall mission and vision?
- What strategic value will it add so that we can grow our company?
- How much revenue do we expect this to generate in a year’s time?
- How will it help us scale and grow our business further?
- How does this product solve problems for customers, make life easier or add value?
Once you’ve established what your mission, strategy and goals are you can start thinking about how to achieve it.
Building Your Product Roadmap
With the mission, strategy and goals in place, how do you map out the steps for reaching them? A product roadmap should begin at your starting point and encompass all milestones and features required to achieve success.
After you begin your journey it may change but it is important to take the time and establish a solid roadmap that shows your team, stakeholders and customers not only what you will achieve, but how and when you will achieve it. Some questions may be;
- What is the timeline?
- What are the key milestones I need to achieve?
- How can we measure success along the way so that we know if we’re on track, ahead of schedule or behind?
These are all great starting questions to ask yourself when mapping out a Product Roadmap.
The How & What
If you’re struggling with this part, don’t worry! You just need to make sure that your roadmap aligns with the product vision and shows a clear path to get there.
Here are some tips on building your product roadmap:
Begin with the end in mind
How will you know if your product is successful? What are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that indicate success, and what do they look like at each stage of development.
Don’t be afraid to go big or go home! Think about how much revenue this could generate for your company in X number of years then map out a timeline that makes sense. How do you accomplish this? How will your product or service unlock new opportunities along the way? How does it help grow your company and market share in the long term, not just today?
Don’t forget about those key milestones along the way so that everybody knows when something significant has been accomplished.
Prioritise & Communicate
If you’re building a new product or feature you might have competing priorities when it comes to development or delivery. It’s essential to prioritise in order or importance to ensure that you deliver the right features at the right time but for the most part, users will be happy to wait for something as long as they are given clear expectations of when it will be delivered.
Making sure everyone on your team can contribute to the product roadmap in a meaningful way is an important part of the process as it gives clarity to the process and journey. Building a product roadmap that your team has input on will help answer a lot of the common questions and problems faced in product development.
Using free tools like Trello, Airtable and others will allow you to display your plan so stakeholders, the product team and users (if you make it public) can have input. If you’re new to product management, make sure you leverage more experienced members of the team to validate your plan.
Iterate & Adapt
Technology, customers and the market are constantly changing so your product roadmap will need to evolve in order for you to stay ahead of the curve.
Creating feedback loops and scheduled reviews with customers, testers, stakeholders and the product team is the quickest way to get the right data and feedback on your latest version. Remember, you can use quantitative and qualitative data to complete the picture.
Less is more
How do we keep things simple and maintain focus on the bigger picture? How can everybody work together to accomplish this goal in an efficient way that is transparent, open and honest?
By asking yourself these questions you’ll be able to build a solid Product Roadmap for delivering your product or service successfully. Keep it simple, prioritise based on value, communicate changes effectively and adapt where needed.
A bonus of digital products is that we can easily revert or adjust as we need. By maintaining an agile and lean approach you won’t over commit to the point of failure.
Getting To Product Market Fit
Once you’ve mapped out your Product Feature Roadmap then the next step is to establish what ‘Product Market Fit’ looks like for your digital product.
- How do we know if our customers are willing to buy this?
- How will I measure customer satisfaction and usage of my product or service once it’s released?
- How can we test demand before building anything so that we’re confident that our Product Market Fit is strong?
- How do I test this before spending money on development and marketing efforts?
- How can you communicate value to your customers so they get excited about what you have created or developed?
These are all great questions which will help determine if your product vision has been successfully built. Once you’ve answered these questions you’ll be able to communicate Product Market Fit a lot more confidently and know that everybody is on the same page.
Using the Product Market Fit Hypothesis from your data gathering phase and validating it against your product roadmap, chances are you will be able to identify the best features of the product to launch as a Minimum Viable Product or MVP.
Brian Balfour’s Four Fits Framework is a great model when looking to develop Product Market Fit. Essentially, it takes much more than a great idea to build a successful product and with every new feature, Product Market Fit can potentially change.
Market <> Product
Make sure you start here every time. Is there a demand for the product in that specific market? If you have spent the time and done this right from the start there should be an identified gap or opportunity. This will include the size of the market, competitors and anything else that will validate your hypothesis.
Product <> Channel
Products are built to fit channels, not the other way around. This refers to the product being marketed on the right channels. For a B2B product it may make no sense to market on Instagram but LinkedIn is ripe for the opportunity.
Understanding if you will need to use virality, user generated content or formal sales teams such as outbound lead generation will also contribute to product channel fit.
Most likely, you will have one single channel that produces your best result. Double down on what works in the early stages and diversify as you grow.
Channel <> Model
Does the payment model suit the channel and is the user willing to pay that price? Recurring payments or one time payments may be suitable but knowing what your customers are used to and what similar products cost will help you find the right fit.
Model <> Market
When customers make a purchase they are considering not only what they pay but how they pay. Understanding the unit economics and growth targets of your product and how the market pays for this type of product is essential not only to make sure you land sales from day one but for long term viability.
Create User Stories
User Stories are short descriptions of how an end user will interact with your digital product or service during their day-to-day life.
- How can we use these stories to map out the path of our Product Roadmap?
- How do I know if my User Stories are written clearly enough so that everybody on my team knows exactly what they should be doing and when?
- How will you prioritise based on value, ROI or cost savings at each stage of development?
- How can I measure success once my product or feature is released?
- How do you know if your User Stories are written in a way that will be easy for designers and developers to map out their next steps?
By getting into the nitty-gritty of understanding what your customer’s goals, problems or needs were at each stage then you’ll have all the information you need to map out user stories and a successful Product Roadmap for delivering your product or service.
A simple template for user stories goes like this:
“As a [persona], I [want to], [so that].”
As a legal assistant, I want to be able to view and filter all my tasks in a day on one screen, so that I can increase my daily productivity and output.
From this user story we can see the legal assistant needs a single dashboard that displays their given tasks in a day. They need to be able to prioritize, re-order and mark them complete in order to be productive and manage competing tasks.
From here a product designer can take this user story and build initial mockups by drawing or quick wireframes for a product manager, user and stakeholders to give feedback on. This gives us the ability to iterate quickly and gain feedback to ensure we don’t give the engineering team a feature with the wrong specifications.
Once we have a user story and design that meets criteria we can move from low fidelity design (wireframes and sketches etc.) to high fidelity design and even prototyping.
Put it all together
Now you have everything mapped out, it’s time to put it in a Project Timeline so that everybody can see exactly what needs to happen at each stage of development. How do I define the different timelines for every member on my team? How will this timeline help me measure progress and success within the Product Roadmap process? How will we know when to stop adding new features or iterating? How will this timeline help us measure success once our product has been released into the marketplace?
By creating a Project Timeline you’ll be able to map out your Product Roadmap, communicate it to everybody on your team and build something that is successful.
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